Tag Archives: Prayer

The A.S.K. Principle

Matthew 7:7-8

7 Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you:
8 For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.

Warning: This post is bound to be a commercial for the book by the same name. Since I wrote that book, I guess it’s all right if I pull a few things from it to write this post. After all, the principle is derived from these very verses.

There are some verses that we have all heard and have all thought we understood them all our lives. These verses are probably on that list. I looked in 25 different translations of the Bible, and they all use the same three verbs – ask, seek, knock. 30 years ago I was studying in Matthew and took notice of the fact that the acronym formed by these three words is ASK. I studied out each word carefully and came up with the original notes of a Bible study I called “The A.S.K. Principle.” Jesus was a master at using as few words as possible to get His pint across, and He always chose His words very carefully. It is no fluke that He chose these three words in this order. Asking is the key to answered prayer. Plain and simple.

Most likely you are saying to yourself “Well Duh.” Everyone knows that! I would say that is true, but does everyone know exactly what it means to ask, seek and knock? Do each of you follow out what scripture says about each one of these words? The essence of answered prayer is found by looking at each of these words carefully and seeing what the scripture reveals. That is what my book does. But I am not going to go through all 200 pages in this post. This will be the Cliff’s Notes version.

The first step is to ask. The word ask in the Greek is actually continue asking. It is not asking once and receiving an answer although this does happen occasionally. I hear way to many preachers preaching that if we have faith, we will only have to ask once and I vehemently disagree. They use scriptures like John 14:14 (If you ask anything in my name I will do it), Matthew 18:19 (If any two agree it shall be done), Mark 11:23 (if you tell this mountain to move and have faith it will be done) and Luke 17:6 (If you have faith like a mustard seed you can move a mountain). Yes, Jesus said all of these things, and He always spoke the truth. Many take this to mean when we ask, God should do it right away.

But Jesus also said If you abide in me and my words abide in you, you shall ask what you will and it shall be done (John 15:7). In John 14:14, which we shared in the previous paragraph,. Jesus says we must ask in His name. Asking in His name means according to His word. In John 15:16 Jesus says that when our fruit remains the Father will answer our prayers. James said we often ask to heap things on our own lusts and this causes our prayers not to be answered. John said If we ask anything according to His will it shall be done (1 John 5:14).

The body of scripture needs to be taken together if we want to see our asking be more effective. Will God instantly bless prayer? Of course He will, if it is His will to do so. We often get to the point that we think God should fit into our timetable and do what we want. It does not work that way. He is in control, and He can do anything He wants. We can come to Him with our request and He will decide which ones to answer now and which ones to answer later. He will decide exactly how He will answer and it may not be what we expect. No matter what, we should honor Him and glorify His name.

Seeking is next. Once again, we do not seek once but continually. There are many ways we can seek the Lord. It is a necessary step to bring about answered prayer. We seek God by searching through His word. Many times the answer to our prayer is in His word already. If we are not familiar with scripture, we will not know that our answer has already been given. Seeking can also be done when we are praying or praising. Both of these are crying out to God and looking for His mercy and grace. We can seek God through meditation. This type of meditation is not thinking about His word or some song. It is just putting Him in His rightful place in our lives and trying to find His presence within us.

There are many verses that tells us to seek the Lord. They all say He shall be found if we seek Him. Do you find that true? When you take time to seek Him, is He always right there with you? The key to finding God when you are seeking Him is humility. If we come to Him boldly, we may not find Him. Now you will probably quote Hebrews 4:12 to me now. It says Come boldly before the throne. I have heard this verse used many times to justify demanding things of God. But the rest of the verse says we can come boldly if we seek mercy. When we do, we will find grace so that we might help others in there time of need. In other words, we don’t come boldly to Him to fulfil our lusts.

Hosea 10:12 says we must break up our fallow ground before we seek the Lord. Our hearts have many hard areas and they need to be broken in order to effectively seek the Lord. Once again, we see brokenness as a key to seeking the Lord. Zephaniah tells us to seek righteousness and meekness. Seek to do right and seek to be meek. Meek is a form of gentle nature which sees God in control, not me. In Matthew 6:33 we are told to seek the kingdom first. How many times do we come to God seeking things for ourselves instead of the kingdom? How any times have we gone about seeking Him in all the wrong ways/ If we want to find Him, let’s start seeking as the word tells us to.

The las step is knocking. The knocking is the waiting. Continue knocking, continue waiting. This is one of the largest keys too answered prayer. It is being patient and waiting on the Lord. It is allowing God to answer in His time, not ours. He promises to answer over and over in His word, yet we fold when we do not have the answer in five minutes. I can guarantee God will answer your prayer every time if you will just wait on Him, continue to ask and seek carefully.

In Matthew 26:38-44 Jesus tells the disciples to watch and pray. This watching is the same as waiting. He told them to do this for themselves, not for Him. He said they should watch so they would not fall into temptation. They did not do so well, and all of them left Him when the guards came. John is the only one mentioned to be near the cross. In James 1:2-4 we are told to count it joy when trials come. Why? Because when our faith is tried our patience is built. That patience perfects us. Therefore, in the midst of our trials, we use our faith to build patience – waiting!

Then of course there is Isaiah 40:31. They that wait upon the Lord – you can probably finish it on your own. Waiting will actually make us stronger. It will give us more stamina. It will help us soar above our problems like an eagle soars high in the sky. This will enable us to wait longer. We don’t like to wait. We are in a microwave generation that wants everything now. But if you are really serious about having a more effective prayer life, waiting is essential.

Asking, seeking and knocking. Sounds so easy doesn’t it? In reality, it is. Mastering prayer takes a lifetime of practice. The Lord’s direction in putting together “The A.S.K. Principle” has helped me see all the shortcomings of my prayer life. I am sure it will be a great addition to your library as well. If you would like your own copy, it is available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble in both paperback and E-book format. Or you can get a signed copy from me by emailing me at pete@theaskprinciple.com. Read it and pass the word if you find it helpful!

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When You Fast

Matthew 6:16-18

16 Moreover when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.

17 But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face;

18 That thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret: and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly.

I have to admit it. I do not like the fact that Jesus says “When you fast” as if it is a foregone conclusion that when you are following Him you will fast. The truth is that I just don’t like to fast. I like food way too much (just look at my belly!), I hate to miss even one meal – it throws my whole day off! I recently had one of those medical tests done where you had to fast for 24 hours, except for this terrible stuff you had to drink, and I thought I would die from the experience. But when I got to the end of it, the fasting part was really not all that bad. I realized I could do it when I had to. So I told myself that I would attempt to fast more often. In these passages, Jesus expects that we will fast, so I guess I better.

However, I hope I will do it the right way and for the right reasons. Jesus tells us the right way here. We should never appear as if we are fasting, and we should not tell others we are fasting. Fasting is a personal matter between me and my God. It is not something to boast or brag about. Now if your church is calling for a fast, then they need to know if you’re participating, but that would be the only time I can see you should tell others you are fasting. It appears in Jesus day that the “Hypocrites” were making sure they appeared down trodden when they fasted, because He tells us not to go about it that way. He tells us we should fix ourselves up just like we always do so no one will see we have been without food.

That’s another point. The fast spoken of in the Bible is a fast from food, nothing else. I hear so many say today you can fast anything, from TV to exercise to reading. While fasting from those things might be OK, it is not what Jesus talks about, or what the Bible talks about as a fast. To truly take on a Biblical fast, we must abstain from food. While those other things might do us some good, they do not accomplish the same goal of depriving us of a necessity of life. Those substitute fasts are just depriving us of what we want, not what we need. There is a big difference. In our society we have a real tough time differentiating between our wants and our needs. Many think they need TV, or they need the latest smartphone, or they need a riding lawn mower, Needs are things we can’t survive without, like food and water. Fasting involves giving up a need, not a want.

The other thing about fasting is that the Bible is very specific about what we should fast for, and it is not to lose weight! You can fast to lose weight, but please don’t call that a fast unto God. A Godly fast will meet the criteria of Isaiah 58:6-7, which lists the reasons we should call for a fast. They are:

1) To loose the bands of wickedness
2) To undo heavy burdens
3) To let the oppressed go free
4) To break every yoke
5) To deal bread to the hungry
6) To cover the naked

When Jesus went into the wilderness after He was baptized, He fasted 40 days and 40 nights. He knew that all of these things listed would be part of His ministry, and He had to prepare for that time. It was an intense time of fasting for what was to come. This is a perfect time to fast – when we are about to go minister somewhere. I know I do not presently do that – do you? I need to ponder this for future times of ministry. Fasting is a powerful way to prepare! Jesus told the disciples they could not cast a demon out because that type only goes out by prayer and fasting (Mark 9:17-29). This tells me that if the disciples had prepared ahead of time, they could have cast that demon out. How much more do I need to be prepared ahead, not knowing what I might face in any given service.

Fasting and praying for a church’s financial situation is OK if the church is facing a heavy burden without those finances. But I believe fasting for offerings for a building fund does not meet the above requirements unless the money has already been committed to the contractor. I have heard about fasting being called for in all types of situations that don’t meet these criteria, and my opinion is that we should not be calling for any fast that does not have a Biblical foundation.

Are we fasting for those people in our church or neighborhood who have cancer, or any other terminal illness? Are we fasting for those who are drug addicts, alcoholics, or smokers? Are we fasting for those who are abusive and just can’t seem to stop? Are we fasting for those who are in chronic pain, or deep financial distress? Are we fasting for the lost souls around us, and for the homeless on the street? These are all good reasons to fast, and I believe our prayers will be answered if we would fast for these reasons.

I need to utilize fasting more in my life. I have often used the excuse that I have never felt the call to fast, or the urging of the Holy Spirit to start a fast. The words Jesus uses here makes it seem like it should be a regular habit in my life. I have fallen short. Jesus also says if I do my fasting for the right reason and in the right Spirit that I will be rewarded openly. I can only hope that reward is answers to the prayers I would lift to heaven while fasting.

Lord, guide my path

The Lord’s Prayer

Matthew 6:9-13

9 After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.
10 Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.
11 Give us this day our daily bread.
12 And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.

(This post is actually an excerpt from my upcoming book “The A.S.K Principle”. This book is at the publishers now! Would love your feedback!)

Familiar – very familiar. I would venture to say every one reading this can recite this prayer by heart. In many of our churches, it is spoken by the congregation every Sunday. After all, Jesus did say this prayer is for us, right?

Yes, He did. It is not that He commanded us to recite this prayer exactly as it is written in this Matthew account. Luke’s account of the same prayer (Luke 11:2-4) leaves out the last line of praise. When Jesus is quoted in Matthew, He says, “after this manner therefore pray.” In Luke’s rendition, which was most likely said at a different time than Matthew’s, Jesus is talking only to the disciples. Luke uses the words, “When ye pray, say…”

The difference in the language is interesting to me. In Luke, Jesus says to use these specific words and we do. We pray this prayer exactly as Jesus gave it. Matthew’s rendition was given during the Sermon on the Mount, where Jesus is instructing the crowd in the ways of the Kingdom of God. At this occasion He tells them to pray in this manner, which to me does not necessarily signify the exact words.

What I am trying to get at is that the Lord’s Prayer is not only a prayer we should pray because we follow Him. It also gives us a pattern of prayer that would be good to incorporate with every prayer we utter. Praying in this manner can mean with the same words, or it can mean by this method. This indicates the pattern of prayer Jesus used is a good outline to follow.

In this section we will take a look at that pattern. I believe following this pattern can enrich your prayer life because, after all, this is the pattern Jesus gave us! Each statement Jesus makes in this prayer is a different part of why we come before God. He brings us to every point in a short concise way. Prayers don’t need to be lengthy to be effective.

Our Father – Relationship is the first part of prayer. God is our heavenly Father; Jesus is our Lord and Savior (and so much more). We begin our prayer by acknowledging our relationship and calling out to the one whom we are addressing with our prayer. There is nothing more important in our walk with God than developing a close, very personal relationship with Him. Coming to Him with every need, confiding in Him when we are hurting or discouraged, knowing His Word and what He wants us to do. These are all a part of that relationship.

Which art in heaven – signifies direction. We want our prayers aimed in the proper direction, acknowledging Him as supreme in all things. He is the one who sits on the throne, high and lifted up. He inhabits heaven and yet dwells in our hearts. Revelation 8:4 says the prayers of the saints rise with a sweet-smelling incense before Him in heaven. This is the destination of our prayers and this where the answers come from.

Hallowed by the name – Praise. Praise should always be a part of our prayer. Praise for who He is, not what He’s done. I love the Psalms because David always either begins or ends with praise – every time. Our prayers should be the same – enter with praise. I will enter His gates with thanksgiving and praise!

Thy Kingdom come – Anticipation of His response, His answer, His reply. It is anticipation of a future heaven, a future walking in His ways, and a future filled with hope and love. When the Kingdom comes, we will know His presence in a greater way than ever before. We thank Him for the answer before it comes because of this anticipation.

Thy Will be done – Not my will but thine be done. This should always be a standard statement in our prayers, whether for us or someone else. I hear people praying so often for healing, financial help, deliverance, and various other things, and I do not hear them say God’s will be done. If even Jesus had to pray “Thy will be done,” how much more should we? Granted, all those things are promises that God will provide, but do I know if He wants to provide them at this time? Or is this trial meant to build me and grow my faith, so I need to go all the way through? It is far better to pray that God will strengthen someone until God decides to deliver them from it. Thy will be done!

on earth as it is in heaven – Desire. Imagine if things were on earth as they are in heaven! No more sickness, no more pain, no tears, no death, and no sorrow. We desire for all these things to pass by us, and God will bring that in His time and in His way. All things are done in heaven by His grand design. Let the same be true in you and in your prayer life. As you pray, allow your words to take on heavenly meaning and purpose.

Give us this day our daily bread – Supplication. asking God for His provision and His grace. He knows what you need each day, and He is never in short supply. The biggest need we have is food for our bodies. The biggest need we have for our souls is grace. God gives us grace for each day – only enough for that day. That is why we should never worry about tomorrow! Give us THIS DAY!

Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors – Mercy. The whole thing applies! God forgives us as we forgive others! We need His forgiveness every time we mess up somewhere. This is often a daily occurrence with me. But the prayer is very specific. Forgive us as we forgive our debtors. This should be part of every prayer, asking God for forgiveness and mercy and forgiving others in the process. We cannot grab onto the first part of this portion and forget the second part!

Lead us not into temptation – Guidance. I need guidance every day. Guidance to do my writing, guidance to set my schedule, and guidance to get done all that needs to be done. Daily I should ask God to direct my steps and keep me away from temptation. If temptation comes, this prayer asks that we not be lead into it. Stay outside of it, not in it!

But deliver us from evil – Deliverance. If I should get caught up in something I should not be, He promises deliverance and salvation. Like anything else, we need to ask. Asking before we get there is the best, so making this a part of our prayer is so helpful. If I should wander off the path, Lord, bring me back onto it and deliver me from my wanderings before they happen!

For thine is the Kingdom – Faith. Faith has many aspects: faith that He is in control, faith that He is Master of all and can touch any situation, faith that this is His Kingdom and He knows all that goes on within it, faith that He can supply all my needs because He is the King who sits on the throne. Pray in Faith, nothing wavering. The entire Kingdom is His, and every element in it is at His command. That should give us great comfort.

And the power – Humility. He has the power, not me. I am but nothing before Him. I need to humbly bow before Him, allowing His power to fix the situation, not my measly human power. I can do nothing to defeat the spiritual enemies at work against me. I come to Him, broken, and needy because He has the power.

And the Glory – reverence and awe. Nothing of me, Lord. Let all the glory come to you, not me. When you deliver me, I will give you the glory. I will tell others my God delivered me. I will tell others my God healed me. I will tell others my God took away my problem. He gets all the glory!

Forever – Eternally – for all time’ We end with praise forever. Our prayers should always end acknowledging His power, His authority, His glory and His answers to our faith. Every time we talk about our prayers being answered, we acknowledge Him forever, not just one time or two or twelve, but forever.

Relationship, direction, praise, anticipation, God’s will, desire, supplication, mercy, guidance, deliverance, faith, humility and reverence for all time. This is the pattern of prayer we should learn to practice. Not a demanding prayer of do this for me, or do that for them. A prayer that lifts His name, gives Him the glory, and puts our requests before Him.

There are many ways to prayer. I pray this chapter will help each of you get into a deeper prayer life than you already have, and that you learn to incorporate all that Jesus incorporated in the prayer we all know so well.

 

When You Pray

Matthew 6:5-8

And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.

But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.

But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.

Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him.

Prayer is a fascinating subject. I have spent a lot of time studying prayer over the past 9 months working on a book that is close to the publishing point. It is called “The A.S.K. Principle: Developing An Effective Prayer Life” This study was first done by me over 30 years ago and I was going to write the book then, but did not. As I was going through cancer maintenance I came across the notes and decided it was time. Some of you might remember me blogging a good portion of the book on this blog earlier this year.

I learned a lot about prayer doing this study, but will spare you the whole book here to concentrate on the point Jesus is making in this portion of the Sermon. Once again He mainly addresses pride, as He does many times throughout these passages. It always amazes me how much the Bible talks about the evils of pride and yet the church still goes on in its prideful way. I know I did for years, something I have shared over and over again on these pages. When will we begin to understand the heart of God is humility?

In this portion, Jesus is specifically discussing how we should pray. The Pharisees were well known for standing on the street corners in their ornate robes and praying very fancy prayers so that all could see them and hear them. The prayed loud and long for God to intervene in the nation and in people’s lives. Their prayers also included praise to God. They often sang these prayers, or recited them in lyrical form. They could be very beautiful. You can still here these types of prayers sung and chanted in both Israel and in many Arab nations. The sound of praying fills the air in many places.

The problem here is not the prayers. God loves prayer, and He loves it when we come to Him with our requests (Proverbs 15:8). He loves it when we express our praise and our need for Him in our lives. He wants nothing more than to bless us and give us the desires of our heart (Psalm 37:4). The problem here is not that they are praying, but the reason they are praying. Jesus says they are praying so that men might see them. In other words, their prayers were meant to draw not only the attention of God but the attention of men as well. They desired to be noticed because of their fancy, elaborate prayers. This is one of the reasons they stood on the street corners – not to cry out to God, but to be noticed by men. This act of drawing attention to themselves is pride. The attention of men is their reward.

Jesus tells us to go into our closet to pray. Our prayer should not be an open show. It should be a quiet conversation with God about the needs of others around us and our own needs. The closet is a place of solitude. God wants us to get alone with Him when we pray. He wants us to give Him our full attention and not try to draw the attention of men. Prayer is a solemn time when we come before the creator of all things and present our requests. It should not be taken lightly. At the same time, it should be like a casual conversation between us and God. We do not need fancy words to pray. We just need to talk to God.

The other thing I draw out of this scripture is that we should not go around telling others that our prayers were answered. If we are doing that to draw attention to the fact that we prayed and it was answered, that is pride and only builds us up, not God. If we are glorifying God about His answer to prayer, that is OK. People need to know prayers have been answered. We just make sure they know for the right reason. Jesus tells us to let our light shine so people can see our good works and glorify the Father (Matthew 5:16). He does not say so people could hear about our good works. Keep your prayer life to yourself unless you speak of it to bring glory to God.

Then the wonderful statement comes in that God knows what we have need of before we ask. I have had so many people ask me “Then why doesn’t He just supply it?”. I believe the answer is simple. Do you recall the story of Blind Bartimaeus? He was a blind beggar who sat on the street every day looking for alms. When Jesus came to town, He cried out over and over “Jesus, thou son of David, Have Mercy on me.” The crowd tried to hush him, but he just keep crying out. Finally Jesus heard him from the back of the crowd and asked that he be brought forward. Jesus then asked Bartimaeus what he wanted. It was quite obvious that he was blind! Why did Jesus ask the question? I am convinced that Bartimaeus could have asked for anything he wanted and Jesus would have granted it for him that day. He asked for his sight and his eyes were opened.

The question is never if God knows what we need. He always knows what we need for any situation we find ourselves in. If we are sick, we want healing. But God may know we need faith more. If we are in financial difficulty, we want finances, but God may know that we need patience more. He knows what we need the most. That is why it is so important that we come to him asking for wisdom so we know what each trial is meant to teach us in this life. The same is true for those we pray for. They may be having big difficulties in their marriage, and we may pray that God will bring them closer together again. But God might know that the husband needs to learn more empathy for his wife’s physical needs. God knows exactly what they must go through in order to come out the other side. Our prayer should be that God will strengthen them until He decides to bring the solution. We often pray against God’s will because we pray for the solution we think is right. God may want a totally different lesson to be learned before that battle is over. God is looking at the long term benefit while we look at what our heart desires for the moment.

You may say that God’s will is healing for all, and it is. After all, Jesus healed everyone that came to Him and He is our example. Shouldn’t we always prayer for healing? Of course we should, and we should expect God to heal. But we also must expect God to heal in His time and in His way. He may perform a miracle and heal instantly. Or He may heal over a period of time because there are other lessons we can learn in the midst of that trial. Some are healed only in dying, where they will have no more pain or sorrow. God has the final answer and we must do our best to pray that His will be done, not our own. It took two and ½ years of chemo to get me to the point of remission I am in today,. God could have healed me instantly, but He had much greater things in store. Over 1,000 poems and songs, studies in Psalms, James and other books that built my faith. A book is being published top build the body of Christ. All because God healed me slowly, not right away. I am in awe of His wisdom, and hope everyone will be patient and await God’s healing in His time.

Watch your prayer life carefully. See if you are praying to get noticed. Observe how you are praying for others and if you are boasting about answered prayer. Be sure you are glorifying God and not yourself when prayers get answered. When we pray in the closet and keep those prayers to ourselves, God gets the glory.

Be Perfect

Matthew 5:48

48 Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.

I would guess that there is not a single person reading this who has ever looked at this scripture and said “No problem.” Actually quite the opposite has always been true with me. How can I ever live up to this? Perfect, as God is perfect? Jesus must have misspoke. He didn’t really mean what He says here, did He? But then again, Jesus always meant what He said. I also don’t believe Jesus ever told us to do something that was beyond accomplishing in our lives, including this verse.

First, let’s look at this word perfect. Our human concept is that it means flawless or without any blemishes of any kind. Our human concept is that it is impossible to attain perfection because we will never be flawless. Our flesh is always messing up, making mistakes and marking us with sin. Day after day we struggle to stay above this sin filled world, but we slip and fall and have to repent once again. Our flesh will never stay perfect and for that reason we will never see ourselves as perfect in God’s eyes.

But there is more to the Greek word than that. In the Greek, this word means brought to its end, finished or lacking nothing necessary for completeness. This is an entirely different picture of the word. I think of the potter. He molds and shape the clay until it forms the vessel he is trying to make. He smooths the clay, works it with his hands and applies the water to smooth it out. Once it is in his desired shape he will fire it in the kiln and allow it to harden. When done it is perfect in his eyes. To is complete and ready for his use. There may be small imperfections in the vessel, but the potter ignores them because he knows the vessel is ready to meet his use, so that is all that matters to him. He sees it as perfect.

I never want to think I am perfect. If I do, pride will rise up within me that I have accomplished something and I am something special. I have been there before and I don’t want to go back. When the spirit moved on a service, I would think I put together the perfect worship service. When many people came to the altar for prayer after a message, I would think I delivered the perfect message for that day and gave the perfect altar call. I did this or I did that. Perfection will never come from within me, nor will I probably ever produce perfection. There is just too much flesh covering my life that I can’t get away from its imperfections.

We have to look at this word differently. Jesus is not saying we have to be perfect in our own eyes. He is saying we have to be perfect in God’s eyes. The difference is huge! God knows where He wants us to be and what He is trying to accomplish in our lives. Only He knows when we are perfected to the place He wants us. We might still see all our flaws and failures, but He may see us as perfected for the purpose He has for us today. That perfection will change as we grow and mature in Christ. God is the one who sees us as perfect.

“How do we get there?” has to be the next question. The journey starts with our salvation. The sin stained life of Adam must be covered with the redemptive life of Jesus Christ. 1 John 2:2 says Jesus is the propitiation for our sins. That means he covers our sins so that God does not see them. In fact, God removes them as far as the East is from the West (Psalm 103:12). He tells us that though our sins are scarlet, He will make us white as snow (Isaiah 1:8). He says if we confess our sins, He will forgive us and cleanse us (1 John 1:9). Our sin must be removed before we can even think about being perfected by God. That is the starting point.

There are many verses in the Bible that talk about the Lord purifying us like gold and silver is purified. This points to a process of perfecting us by removing the things that hinder us in our spiritual walk. Malachi 3:2-3 tells us God will purify the sons of Levi so that they may present the Lord righteous offerings. We are the spiritual priesthood and God wants to purify us so that our works are righteous and pure before Him. Psalm 66:10 says that the Lord has refined us like silver. He has taken away the dross and left those things that are pure before Him.

But how does He do this? This is the thing we must grasp onto. He does the purifying through our trials and tests. Those difficult things God allows into our lives are the very things that remove the dross and imperfections from our lives. Isaiah 48:10 tells us He has tried us, but not like silver, because He has tried us in the furnace of affliction. 1 Peter 1:7 tell us that our faith is more precious than silver or gold and it is tried by fire. Our faith is tried and purified by the fire of afflictions that come into our life.
The key verses to me are James 1:2-4:

My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations;
3 Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience.
4 But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.

Perfect and entire, wanting nothing. There it is again. James tells us that this is attainable. We can be perfect and entire before God. This is not the kind of perfect that has no imperfections! It is not someone who does absolutely no wrong, who is what we would call “squeaky clean.” It is not a person who says the right things and does the right things all the time. It is not a perfection of this world. It is a perfection in God’s eyes.

James tells us first to be joyful when troubles and trials come out way. Sounds impossible, but it is not. This is the Fruit of the Spirit joy that is always there no matter what things may come. It doesn’t laugh uncontrollably or leap for joy or shout for joy. It’s a joy that knows God is doing something good and will rejoice because He is working in us, right at this very minute. The trials we go through are going to exercise my faith. We all know that exercising something will make it stronger. Our trials make our faith stronger.

As our faith grows, so does our patience. We learn to wait on God. We learn that the answer does not always come within the time frame we are hoping for. We learn that His answer always comes at the time appointed by Him, not us. So we have to wait, not really knowing when the answer comes. We have to continue to extend our faith in expectation of that answer, knowing He will answer our prayer because He promises He will. We also have to have wisdom to know when the answer comes because His answer is not always what we expect. He will send His perfect answer, where we always want what we want!

Patience eventually takes over. We no longer worry or fret when the answer will come. We just know beyond a shadow of a doubt that God has everything under control. We wait and pray, knowing God will bring the best answer at the right time. Patience with God is a critical thing. Patience with ourselves is also a by-product. Patience with others is a result of it all. Being able to endure when things aren’t going exactly the way we want is patience. Being able to hold your tongue is patience. Allowing your life to be led one step at a time is patience. It is when patience is completely working in every part of our lives that we are perfected. That’s is when God looks at us and sees a perfect vessel ready for the Master’s use.

When I first saw this truth, I was blown away. Knowing that patience is so critical in our walk with God will change our perspective. It sure did mine! I realized that all those trials I have gone through, and am still going through, are God’s perfecting agents for my life. That is why I can have joy in the midst of every trial and test. I know He is brining me closer to perfection in His eyes. I know that this trial is bringing me to the place where I am perfectly ready to fulfill His call on my life.

Be perfect, as your Father in heaven is perfect. Not in your own eyes, but in His eyes. He sees our heart, we see our flesh. We see an imperfect vessel, He sees a perfect heart if we have come to that point. Allow yourself to be perfected by God, and be perfect.

Love Your Enemies

Matthew 5:43-44 (KJV)

43 Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy.
44 But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;

There is an interesting shift here that I have not caught before. In the last three cases where Jesus says “Ye have heard it hath been said”, the references He gave were all scriptural from the Old Testament teachings. But there is nowhere in the Old Testament where they are told to hate their enemies. Instead, we are told to not take vengeance, to consider their afflictions and to help them when we can:

Leviticus 19:18
”You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the sons of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself; I am the Lord,”

Exodus 23:4-5
“If you meet your enemy’s ox or his donkey wandering away, you shall surely return it to him. If you see the donkey of one who hates you lying helpless under its load, you shall refrain from leaving it to him, you shall surely release it with him,” 
Proverbs 25:21
“If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; And if he is thirsty, give him water to drink,” 

One has to wonder who was saying to hate their enemies! It is true that the Old Testament commanded them to rid their land of all who were of other religious, but it was not out of hate that they did this. It was to keep themselves pure before the Lord and avoid turning to those idols themselves. They failed miserably at this most of the time though! They regularly would turn back to the groves and idols of the heathen and God would have to step in with judgement to turn them back. It was a continual process in the nation.

This seems to be a continual process for many of us in the church, me included. There are idols in our lives that we turn back to over and over again. An idol is anything that we worship more than God. It can be an area of disobedience in our lives that we keep turning back to, or just a part of our loves that pushes God out. When this happens to us, God will allow things into our lives that will cause us to turn back to Him if we will but listen and open our eyes. We are not to bring hate into our lives to get rid of the sin. That will only draw attention to the sin. The way out of sin is to love God and turn to Him, because that automatically turns us away from our sinfulness. If we try to get rid of sin by hating it, we concentrate on the sin and not on God This is a critical lesson we must learn before we can move forward. Love is always the answer!

The command is to love our neighbor as ourselves. It is not love the neighbor that is good to you, or that is a Christian, or that has similar likes and dislikes. It is your neighbor. Any neighbor. When Jesus is asked who our neighbor is, He gives us the story of the Good Samaritan, where the enemy of the Jews is the neighbor who does good to the Jew, his neighbor.

Have you ever noticed how sometime non-Christians are much more loving and helpful than Christians? They will go out of their way to help you out while the committed Christian always has an excuse not to help. We have had this happen numerous times in our lives, especially during this cancer crises the last two and a half years. Almost all of our transportation has been provided, most of it by those we would call nominal Christians if really saved at all. They go to church, but do not really live a committed Christian life. However, when it comes to helping someone in need, they are there quickly. This has been such a blessing to me and my wife. I am not their enemy, but you get the idea here. We as Christians always need to do the best we can to help our neighbors when they ask.

Our enemy is even more important to love. If we show disrespect to them, or try to get revenge, or come back at them with some snide remark, we are no better than the world. We bring ourselves down to their level of communication, and the word tells us that our mission is to edify those around us (Eph 4:29). We are to lift people up. We are to be a light in this dark world. Shining brightly with love and compassion. We are to be the salt of the earth, seasoning it with good flavor and preserving it for heaven. We are to be humble, meek, mournful over sin, merciful and peacemakers. We are to endure any persecution that comes our way, any hurtful comment, any gossip, and wrong, and only return love.

We are also told to do good to those that use and abuse us. Don’t recompense evil with evil, but overcome evil with good (1 Peter 3:9). We overcome the wrongs done to us by returning good to those who have hurt us. A loving remark said to someone who says something hurtful really throws them for a loop. Most can’t understand that kind of love. It gives us a stage to witness down the road. But more than that, it keeps us from getting bitter over the situation. Our anger is removed by love. We will start to love them despite their hurtful ways, and our heart will be more aware of what is going on.

The truth is that we do not know exactly what is going on in a persons life that they would say or do hurtful things to us. They may have a situation in their life that is dragging them down so they need encouragement. They may have been hurt deeply and want to lash out at someone and you just happened to be the target. Whatever the case, we should be agents of love to them. Saying things that would only lift them out of their problems and help them see the brighter side of life.

On top of that, we are to pray for those who hurt us. Earlier in these studies, I shared with you the Mercy prayer . This prayer is perfect to use for those who have wronged you and offended you. It prays mercy over that one who has hurt you and it works to change your heart as well as theirs. The power of prayer cannot be overlooked in our human relations. It is the most powerful force in the universe because it brings into action the power of God Himself. I would urge you, if you struggle in this area, to go back and print out that prayer. Keep it handy for future use. It will change your life. This world can be hurtful enough. Let us rise above and be the agents of love to a lost and dying world.

Jesus, worthy of our praise!

Jumping For Joy Cancer Update

Still in complete remission and no active lesions! Blood counts all look good. Praise the Lord.
 
This was the report I received Monday in Iowa City. I also found out my last day chemo is Sept 27th. Everything is progressing nicely. I am walking an average of 2 miles a day and biking 4+ miles a day. This is the most exercise I have ever done in my life!
 
On the “still believing God for complete healing” side, my neuropathy has not changed, but I am functioning better with it. And my fatigue level has slightly deteriorated (Maybe I exercise too much?).
 
I also have 4 opportunities to share the healing story of faith in the next two months, and continue to look for more open doors. Any suggestions?
 
Again, thank you for all your prayers and support. Janeen has drawn strength from them as much as I have. You are all very special to us!
 
Be blessed